Tanya/Iggeres Ha’Kodesh - The Holy Epistle, Epistle 3, Class 2

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The meaning of this [is as follows]: Charity is greater than all the commandments,

וּבֵיאוּר הָעִנְיָן, כִּי גְדוֹלָה צְדָקָה מִכָּל הַמִּצְוֹת,

for [their performance] produces “garments” for the soul.

שֶׁמֵּהֶן נַעֲשִׂים לְבוּשִׁים לְהַנְּשָׁמָה,

The performance of the commandments provides the “garments” that enable the soul to withstand the intense degree of Divine revelation to which it will be exposed in Gan Eden, instead of being nullified by it.

[These garments] are drawn forth from the [infinite] light of the blessed Ein Sof,

הַנִּמְשָׁכִים מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא

Deriving from a source which is infinite,5 they enable the soul to cope with the infinite degree of revelation which it will encounter in Gan Eden.

from the level of sovev kol almin.

מִבְּחִינַת "סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין"

Unlike the mode of life-giving Divine illumination called memalei kol almin (lit., “filling all worlds”), which becomes integrated and manifest within the creatures it animates, the mode of Divine illumination called sovev kol almin (lit., “encompassing all worlds”) is not limited to the finite spiritual capacity of created beings; it transcends and affects them from afar, so to speak.

(6The meaning of memalei kol almin and sovev kol almin has been explained in Likkutei Amarim;7 see there.)

(כִּמְּבוֹאָר הַפֵּירוּשׁ "מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין" וְ"סוֹבֵב כָּל עָלְמִין" בְּלִקּוּטֵי אֲמָרִים, עַיֵּין שָׁם)

[These garments are brought into being] by an “arousal from below,” i.e., the [fulfillment of the] commands of G‑d and the will of the Supreme Being.

בְּאִתְעָרוּתָא דִלְתַתָּא, הִיא מִצְוַת ה' וְרָצוֹן הָעֶלְיוֹן בָּרוּךְ־הוּא.

Since the commandments emanate from G‑d’s supreme will from the level of sovev kol almin, they serve as the source for the abovementioned garments.

The essence of this efflux from the [infinite] Ein Sof-light is a garment and encompassing light for the ten sefirot of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah,

וְעִיקַּר הַמְשָׁכָה זוֹ מֵאוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא, הוּא לְבוּשׁ וְ"אוֹר מַקִּיף" לְי' סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה,

which evolve from cause to cause and from rung to rung…,

הַמִּשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוֹת מֵעִילָּה לְעִילָּה וּמִמַּדְרֵגָה לְמַדְרֵגָה כוּ',

[these sefirot] being referred to as memalei kol almin.

הַנִּקְרָאוֹת בְּשֵׁם "מְמַלֵּא כָּל עָלְמִין".

The Alter Rebbe now answers the following question: Since the sefirot themselves are the Divinity of the Four Worlds, why do they need the infinite Ein Sof-light as a garment?

This means that the Ein Sof-light vests itself and radiates in an indwelling manner within the entire evolving chain of the ten sefirot of [the Worlds of] Atzilut,Beriah,Yetzirah, and Asiyah;

פֵּירוּשׁ, כִּי אוֹר־אֵין־סוֹף בָּרוּךְ־הוּא מִתְלַבֵּשׁ וּמֵאִיר בְּתוֹךְ כָּל הִשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוּת הָעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה,

[moreover,] it gives rise to the ten sefirot of [the World of] Atzilut, which evolve into [the Worlds of] Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah,

וְהוּא הַמַּאֲצִיל הָעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת, הַמִּשְׁתַּלְשְׁלוֹת לִבְרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה,

The sefirot of Atzilut thus serve as the Divine illumination for the Worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah. This is made possible—

by means of an immense contraction (tzimtzum), which is explained in Etz Chaim.

עַל־יְדֵי צִמְצוּם עָצוּם הַמְבוֹאָר בְּעֵץ חַיִּים,

This contraction involves not only a quantitative lessening of spiritual illumination but more importantly a qualitative diminution; the hitherto infinite light is contracted to so great a degree that it can emanate and illuminate in a finite manner.

[The resultant light] is referred to as an indwelling light (or pnimi)—a light that vests itself in an inward manner within created beings, inasmuch as it is contracted to match the spiritual capacity of the particular created being in which it is clothed.

וְנִקְרָא "אוֹר פְּנִימִי",

Now, by the fulfillment of the commandments, the abovementioned encompassing light is elicited and radiates within the ten sefirot of [the Worlds of] Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, thereby uniting with the indwelling light.

וְעַל־יְדֵי קִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת נִמְשָׁךְ "אוֹר מַקִּיף" הַנִּזְכָּר לְעֵיל, וּמֵאִיר תּוֹךְ הָעֶשֶׂר סְפִירוֹת דַּאֲצִילוּת־בְּרִיאָה־יְצִירָה־עֲשִׂיָּה, וּמִתְיַיחֵד עִם הָ"אוֹר פְּנִימִי",

When this occurs, the infinite and transcendent light (or makif) permeates the indwelling light (or pnimi) of Seder Hishtalshelut—the self-obscuring and chainlike descent of the Divine life-force through which increasingly material worlds come into being.

This is referred to as the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He, the epithet “holy” (kadosh) signifying His separateness from the world, hence the level of sovev kol almin,

וְנִקְרָא "יִחוּד קוּדְשָׁא־בְּרִיךְ־הוּא

and His Shechinah, the indwelling light which is so called because the Divine Presence descends and dwells (שכן) within the created worlds, as is explained elsewhere.8

וּשְׁכִינְתֵּיהּ", כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּמָקוֹם אַחֵר,

It is explained in another context that the performance of mitzvot results in this union of the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah. This is why we say לְשֵׁם יִחוּד (“For the sake of the union of the Holy One, blessed be He, with His Shechinah”) before we perform certain mitzvot: for it is they that fuse the light of sovev kol almin, known as “the Holy One, blessed be He,” with the light of memalei kol almin, known as the Shechinah. Thus, the main radiance of Divine light drawn down through the performance of commandments is effected within the evolution of the sefirot of the Four Worlds.

FOOTNOTES

5. Note by the Rebbe: “As explained below, in Epistle 29.”

6. Parentheses appear in the original text.

7. Ch. 48.

8. Note by the Rebbe: “Cf. [Tanya,] Part I, ch. 41. However, we cannot say that [the Alter Rebbe] intended to indicate this chapter, for if this were so, he would have added ‘in Likkutei Amarim,’ as he had just done in this same epistle with regard to sovev kol almin.”